Friday, 7 August 2015

The Steamin' Mugs Part 4


Chapter 7 : February
Chapter 8 : The D-Day!

Chapter 7 : FEBRUARY

The new year brought in resolutions. Sid tried to write a short story for a producer friend but his schedule wasn’t as light. Besides, the mood would not kick in when he had time. Finally, he resolved to not resolve. He hadn’t heard from Ananya since the book launch a few months ago and he finally felt like he was moving on. After almost a year and a half.

Pritha added a new Suggestions and Blog corner to the coffee house and comments had started pouring in. So people were welcome to share travel experiences. She had ordered a travel journal and named it “Worldviewer”. A couple of times that Sid was there, he saw people scribbling at their tables. The matter was to be proofread, typed and printed by Pritha and only the best entries got on into the journal. The start of the year had already seen 3. Not bad for a period of 45 days.

As the month end was approaching, Sid was getting anxious. His bucket list had only two things. One, to make Pritha’s birthday one of the most memorable ones of her life and two, telling her how he felt for her. He had also decided to show and gift her his travelogue, something he had cautiously avoided telling her for want of surprise. Also, a beautiful silk saree that he had bought in town someplace chic, he often forgot names but the translucent blue would make her look so serene…the thought of it soothed him. It was crazy, he was aware. He had colleagues who had shown interest in dating him and maybe more, but he had neither the time nor the inclination to take it forward. 

It wasn’t that Sid was expecting anything. On the contrary, he was worried how she might take it and whether or not, it would ruin their equation for good. That she might have something to say in his favour is a thought that scared him. For want of not getting disappointed, he had chosen to remain pessimistic when it came to him confessing his true feelings for her. But he could not, not tell her. Not any longer. His conscience was guilt ridden for he came to see her in the capacity of someone more than a friend. Was it infatuation, attraction, love, lust!? Could not be lust…that, Sid was sure of. Her physical attributes did have the highest appeal but the person that she was, was what he admired the most. In a much rather innocent, platonic way. At times, he felt foolish and childish, like literally, given the age difference but the effort required, to sound normal and hide his true feelings, was getting tad too much. 

Her closest friends were throwing her a party on the eve of the 29th and Sid chose to not be there. Given his agenda, he wanted to be alone with her, as long as she was willing. “Well sure, I am not doing anything particular that evening so a dinner would be a good idea!” She seemed excited about it! He had confided in Abdul for all the arrangements and had ordered a dark cherry forest cake, her favorite from The Cake Shop and arranged for it to be delivered at the coffee house, at around 4. Before she reopened it after the lunch break. 3 to 5 was cool off and cleaning time and he decided to turn that into an opportunity. The champagne, he would personally carry that along with his cherished work, the travelogue.
The previous night, he could hardly sleep. His excitement knew no bounds and as much as he had confessed his love to women before, this seemed like out of the ordinary. Hell, it was. The Ananya chapter had consumed him emotionally and after a long while was he feeling secure and clear in his thoughts again. It was love. Period. And it was going to be an honest confession. The outcome? He had not let his mind wander there.

12am and he placed the call. As the call got through, there sounded what was like a screech and the familiar “Hey!” on the phone. She wasn’t sounding her normal self and it amused him. 

“You are sounding a little different! May this be a great day and a year ahead Pritha! Happy birthday and have a good one! Love you!” He tried to sound nonchalant.

There was no reason she could have taken it in any other way! “Thanks Sid! You are up! You should join us! We are at my place and……” Screech! 

“What! Hellooo….??”

“Hellloo…Sid, you there? Sorry, there is a lot of commotion here. Before the line goes crazy again, thanks a ton Sid for calling me at this hour! Waiting to celebrate with you tomorrow. Go to sleep ya and have a good one, you too! Thanks again!” she chuckled!

“Sure! Byee!”

Chapter 8 : D DAY!

He could hardly catch sleep that night. It was going to be a long day. He had to work but he had asked for permission to start and wrap up early. Heartily granted at that. Sid was great with his work. His interpersonal relationships had ensured him a smooth transition into the team and a dedicated worker that he was, nobody cared with a simple request like that once in a blue moon. As long as work did not get affected. 

He had put on his best attire to work today. Denims with a formal shirt. Friday, so a semi-formal day. Sid was in luck. He looked at his watch as it clocked 3. He pressed the elevator button thrice. As the door opened, he darted inside and pressed L1. The liftman winked at him. “Sab mera kaam karte to asaan padta”. He awkwardly got up from the bar-like stool given to him to rest his buttocks on once a while and switched on the fan. Sid was glancing nervously as the lift sped down and within less than 20 seconds, he was out. 

“Sahab”, Mikesh called out. 

“Mikesh! Kya hua?” Sid spun around and started pacing backwards. 

“Shirt pe ink utara hai! Pocket..pocket…” he managed as the lift doors closed shut. Shit! Sid had no time to buy a new one on the way. There were showrooms but time was critical here. To hell with it! He thought.
He took a cab and picked up the champagne bottle on his way. It had already been arranged for, nicely wrapped with a birthday note and a box of salted cookies. The likes of which Pritha had a taste for. Abdul had been instructed to get a bouquet of white orchids. Elegant and not over the board. A small one with a green ribbon woven around. Just as Sid had instructed. This was from Ferns and Petals, luckily on the same street as Pritha’s café and her adjacent house was. Abdul seemed intrigued but refrained from asking questions. Over the years, he had been a silent worker. Good for Sid.

As the taxi turned around the curb, he could now see the coffee house at a distance. Pritha was to come downstairs around 4 for trying out a new specials menu, something she had reserved for this particular day and Abdul had already managed the cake and the bouquet and had arranged it on a corner chair, next to one of the tables near the far end of the wall, not visible to her as she entered. He also had another packet received and opened and kept ready for her to see on the same table since he thought gifts could all go there.
The taxi halted a few meters from the café.  Pritha had no knowledge that Sid was showing up early. She was busy inside baking or so Sid guessed as he scanned the place from outside. Carefully, he took the bottle , the box of cookies, the sari wrapped in a beautiful paper folder and his own travelogue tied with a red ribbon. He had already paid the taxiwala as he knew he would be hands full. He looked at the ink stain once and sighed. What a mess!

As he climbed the two baby steps that led to the café, Abdul came out beaming. That meant victory. So he had managed everything! Sid was thrilled! 

“Sab le aaye Abdul?”

“Sahab sab kuch us table pe rakha hai! Cake ko jaldi kaato sahab, pighal jaayega aur bouquet bhi hai aur….” His voice trailed off as he saw the travelogue. “Yehi toh rakha hun!”

“Kya!?” Sid had opened his mouth to say something else but just a Hindi monosyllable came out. “Matlab!?”

“Sahab yehi kitaab toh rakha hun thodi der pehle!” he took the gifts and shot a nervous glance inside fearing that Pritha might come out. 

Sid let him take the gifts and walked towards the table that Abdul had indicated. 

“How did Pritha know that it was my travelogue?  Had I mentioned it to her in my drunk state the other night? Had she read about it someplace? Had Abdul blurted it out to her…no wait, Abdul did not know I was getting the book…”  numerous thoughts as Sid walked towards the table. His pensive mode continued….“Maybe she wanted to surprise me!! Ahaa..that could be it!”

His work was sitting there all right! Without a thought, he opened the cover and felt multiple tiny stabs near his chest as he read..

“A book am sure you will love and which will go well in your café! Sorry, could not make it yesterday. Happy birthday Maa. Love you. Ananya.”

The place began to swirl and Sid walked out the entrance. Now an exit for him, he again looked at his shirt and departed without a second glance thinking the same thing “What a mess!”. 


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